Officials hope child fatalities on farms leads to change in safety culture

Photos of three smiling, blond sisters circulated around the world this year after they were killed on their family farm in west-central Alberta.

See Full Article

Catie Bott, 13, and 11-year-old twins Dara and Jana, suffocated in a truck loaded with canola as their family was busy bringing in the harvest in October.

Glen Blahey with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association says the tragedy has acted as a catalyst for discussing child safety on farms.

"I think it is making a difference in terms of recognition of hazards," he told The Canadian Press.

But he's hoping for more.

Blahey said it's great to talk about safety, but "it would be really nice to spur some action before a tragic event occurs."

The Alberta government recently released statistics showing that there were eight other farm deaths in 2015, two of them children. One was 10-year-old Joseph Stahl, who was driving a forklift on a Hutterite colony when the machine toppled into a ditch and pinned him underneath.

There were other child deaths on farms across the country. In one case in southwestern Saskatchewan, Layne Langridge, 14, fell in a truck loaded with grain. His grandfather, 66-year-old Dennis Becker, tried to save him. They both died.

Statistics from Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting show that between 2000 and 2008, there were about 10 child farm deaths each year in Canada. The average before that was 16.

Jennifer Austin with 4-H Canada said the most recent deaths, especially of the Bott sisters, have deeply touched her organization. It is starting a new fund in 2016 to develop additional safety programs.

"We know clubs are already focused on farm safety but this will put a further emphasis on farm safety - and at a time when it's very much on the minds of people in rural communities," she said.

A few weeks ago, the NDP government in Alberta passed new legislation that puts farm and ranch workers under occupational health and safety rules. It became the last province to do so.

The law also gives workers' compensation benefits to paid farm workers injured on the job.

Following angry protests, the province clarified that family farms are exempt. The rules will only apply to paid workers.

Eric Musekamp, founder of the Farmworkers Union of Alberta, had pushed for the legislation for years. Although the law doesn't directly apply to kids on family farms, he's glad it will help paid child workers in larger farm operations.

He said he saw children as young as eight working in unsafe conditions when he was a truck driver a dozen years ago.

"There's chains and belts and electrical motors, wires, and trucks backing around and stuff. It's hair raising."

He said he once passed out safety supplies to children at a farm - masks, goggles and ear plugs - and was promptly fired.

"That kind of got my dander up," recalled Musekamp. That's why he formed the advocacy group.

He believes the solution to curbing injuries and deaths on farms is to create a training society similar to AgSafe in British Columbia. That group, funded through workers' compensation premiums, facilitates compliance of farm legislation through training and on-site visits, even to family farms.

Other provinces such as Manitoba and Ontario have similar societies, but Musekamp said the one in B.C. is more extensive.

Over the last 20 years, the group has significantly reduced farm fatalities and injuries in the province, he said. "They hardly ever have child fatalities in their industry anymore."

He describes farm safety legislation as a stick, and the training society as a carrot.

"We believe that's part of the success in reducing deaths and injuries on the family farm without employees. This training becomes ubiquitous ... In a relatively short period of time, it starts to change the culture."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • About 1 in 4 Europeans hold anti-Semitic beliefs: survey

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN -- About one in four Europeans hold anti-Semitic beliefs, with such attitudes on the rise in eastern countries and mostly steady in the west, according to a survey released Thursday. The poll of 14 European countries, done for the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, found anti-Semitic attitudes most prevalent in Poland, where such sentiment rose to 48% of the population from 37% in 2015, and Ukraine, where the rise was even greater-- to 46% from 32% in 2016. Source
  • Explosion at Italian fireworks factory kills 5

    World News CTV News
    ROME -- Italian rescue services say a blast at a fireworks factory in Sicily has killed five people and seriously injured two others. Italian firefighters and Carabinieri police said that the 71-year-old wife of the owner of the family-run factory in the Sicilian town of Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto was among the victims. Source
  • Why Atlantic Canada's lucrative seafood industry is concerned about Elizabeth Warren

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada is defending measures it has taken to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, as political pressure — and blame — mounts from the United States in the wake of a rash of whale deaths in Canadian waters in 2019. Source
  • Iran sentences 6 conservationists to prison in internationally criticized trial as unrest continues

    World News CBC News
    Six conservationists working to save the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah have been sentenced to prison on internationally criticized espionage charges in Iran, activists said Thursday, even as protests and unrest continue in parts of the country amid a government-imposed internet shutdown. Source
  • Shatner, Obomsawin among 39 inductees to Order of Canada today

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Gov. Gen. Julie Payette is honouring 39 people with the Order of Canada this morning, including actor William Shatner, writer Ann-Marie MacDonald and lawyer James Lockyer. Shatner is being given one of Canada's highest civilian honours for his 60-year career in theatre, television and film; MacDonald for her art and advocacy for women and on LGBTQ issues; and Lockyer for his work championing people wrongly convicted of crimes. Source
  • Islamic State group claims responsibility for Mali attack

    World News CTV News
    JOHANNESBURG -- The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed 30 soldiers in Mali earlier this week. A statement late Wednesday asserts that another 30 soldiers were wounded in Monday's ambush. Source
  • Victim of revenge porn sues ex-lover, testing Saskatchewan's new privacy law

    Canada News CBC News
    A Saskatchewan woman has filed a civil suit against her ex-lover, Daylan Heidel, seeking compensation for harm allegedly inflicted when he shared intimate images without her consent. A publication ban protects the woman's identity. In a statement of claim filed at Court of Queen's Bench this week, the woman said that Heidel, her former sexual partner, repeatedly posted intimate images and videos of her on internet porn sites, such as xHamster and Pornhub, without her consent. Source
  • New public safety minister says Huawei 5G review 'a priority' but offers no timeline

    Canada News CBC News
    There's still no timetable indicating when Canada will decide whether Chinese tech giant Huawei will be allowed to join Canada's next-generation 5G wireless network, newly sworn-in Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Thursday. "I think there are some complex economic and security issues that need to be addressed," Blair said outside of Rideau Hall last night. Source
  • Why Chrystia Freeland is the indispensable Trudeau cabinet minister

    Canada News CBC News
    Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland have been very good for each other. Not for the first time, the future of the Liberal government — and a lot else — seem to be riding on the two of them finding success together. Source
  • Huge pro-India fake news network includes Canadian sites, links to Canadian think tanks

    Canada News CBC News
    A huge international network of fake local news sites that push a pro-Indian government position internationally has a deep Canadian connection, CBC News has learned. According to the EU DisinfoLab, a Brussels-based non-profit group whose goal is identifying disinformation targeting the European Union, the network includes at least 265 sites in more than 65 countries. Source